In Their Own Words

Amateur time-travelling

Before COVID, I dabbled in top roping, where you have the harness and the carabiner and the belayer standing below as you climb. I’m sure we all have intrusive thoughts, what the French call “l’appel du vide,” and at the top of the route, all I could think about was unclipping myself.

But you can’t do that. To plummet in front of your belayer, surrounded by others, to traumatize them with the mess your body would make at the bottom. How often does duty to others keep us here?

But take away all that, and I’m lying on my bed, tired, just out of my first, year-long relationship. And I blink and it’s tomorrow and I’ve invented time travelling without taking a single physics course. Did you know? Time travel isn’t about pushing yourself through the fourth dimension – it’s about letting go.

Please think about the sailboats of yore, of junks and clippers and schooners, and how their anchors kept them from moving, kept them grounded on water. Even cars and trains have breaks that enslave and entrap the axles, stealing their freedom. If I am a vehicle for time, if I am moving through time, wouldn’t I operate on a similar principle? And lying on my bed, alone, social distancing, an alien, I am untethered. Falling, diving, plunging into next week, next month, next year and maybe I’m going too fast for comfort, so fast that if I throw out an anchor, it’d snap the line.

When falling from a great height, once you get over the initial shock, it’s not that bad. You know how gravity works, that the ground does exist. For once, in that moment of freedom, there is no uncertainty: the odds have never been so favourable, and you have never been so confident as to what will happen next. But, in time, does the ground exist?

I don’t know, I call from the void.

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Andy Zhang-Ren

University of Alberta – Master’s student
Edmonton, Alberta

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